In many rodent species, including Syrian hamsters, the expression of appropriate social behavior depends critically on the perception and identification of conspecific odors. The behavioral response to these odors is mediated by a network of steroid-sensitive ventral forebrain nuclei including the medial amygdala (Me), posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), and medial preoptic area (MPOA). Although it is well-known that Me, BNST, and MPOA are densely interconnected and each uniquely modulates odor-guided social behaviors, the degree to which conspecific odor information and steroid hormone cues are directly relayed between these nuclei is unknown. To answer this question, we injected the retrograde tracer, cholera toxin B (CTB), into the BNST or MPOA of male subjects and identified whether retrogradely-labeled cells in Me and BNST 1) expressed immediate early genes (IEGs) following exposure to male and/or female odors or 2) expressed androgen receptor (AR). Although few retrogradely-labeled cells co-localized with IEGs, a higher percentage of BNST- and MPOA-projecting cells in the posterior Me (MeP) expressed IEGs in response to female odors than to male odors. The percentage of retrogradely-labeled cells that expressed IEGs did not, however, differ between and female and male odor-exposed groups in the anterior Me (MeA), posterointermediate BNST (BNSTpi), or posteromedial BNST (BNSTpm). Many retrogradely-labeled cells co-localized with AR, and a higher percentage of retrogradely-labeled MeP and BNSTpm cells expressed AR than retrogradely-labeled MeA and BNSTpi cells, respectively. Together, these data demonstrate that Me, BNST, and MPOA interact as a functional circuit to process sex-specific odor cues and hormone information in male Syrian hamsters.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Luis Martinez for his assistance with the statistical analysis. This work was supported by NIH grant MH072930 to A.P. and in part by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience under the STC program of the NSF, under agreement IBN 9876754 .
- Androgen receptor
- Odor preference
- Retrograde tracer